Celebrating World Day for Audio Visual Heritage with Hollywood Songs

Written by John F. Anderies, archival processor

monday-mourning-on-saturday-night_coverMonday, October 27 is World Day for Audio Visual Heritage, a day promoted by UNESCO and the Co-ordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations (CCAAA), for raising awareness of the preservation issues of the vast and valuable audio-visual materials in our archives. For several reasons, audio-visual information is especially vulnerable to loss: much of it is rare or unique, irreplaceable if lost; it is kept on a dizzying array of media types, many of which have become obsolete; many of these media types are extremely fragile and are prone to degradation over time; and to even know what is on a given recording may require that it be played — an act that could easily spell the end of that particular recording’s life.

The collections of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts at Penn contain some wonderful audio-visual material. Some of it has been expertly preserved, reformatted in high quality digital form, with originals receiving appropriate housing and an environment that will sustain them as long as possible. But the cost of this treatment is high and the amount of material needing attention is ever growing.

a-square-in-the-social-circle-from-the-paramount-picture-the-stork-club_coverOne collection which will soon be receiving attention is the papers of Hollywood lyricist and Penn alum Ray Evans, who together with his song-writing partner and fellow alum, Jay Livingston, created many of the most memorable songs of screen, stage and television for over 60 years. Thanks to the generosity of the Ray and Wyn Ritchie Evans Foundation, these recordings will soon begin to be digitized and reformatted so that they will remain available to researchers long into the future. In honor of World Day for Audio Visual Heritage, we present a few of the duo’s early works together with references to them in excerpts from Ray Evans’ war-time diary, 1939-1945.

Monday Mourning on Saturday Night

The diary of Ray Evans opens in spring of 1939.  He and Jay Livingston graduated from Penn a few years earlier, had traveled the world playing in a cruise-ship band, and were now trying their hand at “making it” in New York City. The first song he mentions in his diary, “Monday Mourning on Saturday Night,” is also their first to be recorded.

Evans_Diary_1939-4-22-23Weekend April 22-23 [1939]

So starts another issue of my history. There has been an interlude of three months without record for with all the adversity there was neither incentive nor a surplus quarter to commence again. Saw George Abbott Saturday afternoon. He was very friendly and courteous, and he had a pleasant laugh that made me feel entirely at ease. He said that in no place of the theater has such a shortage as the music end. So he promised to call me for an audition.

Met Virginia Verrill at Camden Sunday. She was swell. Talked glibly of her accident, her music trials, how she likes to sing. Said she would sing “Monday Mourning” when she gets her New York spot.

Frank surprised me with his new attitude. He radiated confidence and has perfect trust that he is destined for big things now. But, he makes the reservation that one must work hard and apply himself exclusively, with his ideal constantly before him, to succeed.

The Cat and the Canary

Livingston and Evans wrote “The Cat and the Canary” in 1944, the year they moved from New York to Hollywood. The pair really hustled in their first few years in Hollywood. The number of contacts saw in a given day — fellow songwriters, producers, promoters and singers — is staggering and the failures were often more common than the successes. Finally, on October 4, 1944, Johnny Mercer performed the Cat and the Canary on his radio broadcast from The Tropics. The song later appeared in the 1945 PRC film Why Girls Leave Home.

Evans_Diary_1944-9-13-14Wed. Sept. 13 [1944]

Was beautifully blue today — with the broken tooth and the bleak future. I am so sick of getting kicked around. Am I in the wrong business, or is there a balance that will swing the pendulum the other way. Stayed home all day. Tried to see Mercer late in the afternoon, but he was tied up.

Thur. Sept. 14 [1944]

We had to drive Elaine’s aunt down to L.A. and Jay wasn’t very happy about it. She is sort of a screwball and has decided to “break” into show business. She wants us to “collaborate” with her, which is just what we need. Came back to see Bernie and he wasn’t in. We hung around and hung around, but no trace of him anywhere. Then, to break the chain of frustration we went to see Mercer. Surprise of surprises, we saw him and he was very enthusiastic about “Cat and Canary.” It won’t mean anything except his getting to know us a little better. But, it sure buoyed us up to have something favorable on the horizon. School was stimulating as usual.

A Square in the Social Circle

Written for the 1945 Paramount Pictures film The Stork Club starring Betty Hutton, “A Square in the Social Circle” tells the story of an awkward hat-check girl who works at the lavish Stork Club in New York City. The success of this film and its songs led to Livingston and Evans being offered a long-term contract from Paramount, where they continued to make hits for the next two decades.

Evans_Diary_1945-2-18the second chorus is what he wants in the first, so we have to revise it. Lipstone was already talking money to Luntzel, so everything looks pretty good! I hope this won’t be another Goldwyn deal. Saw Jim Conkling. With his usual enthusiasm he thought “Square” wonderful. We talked on and on to him about music and records. They all think “Stuff” will sell big! I hope they’re right.

Thu. Jan. 18 [1945]
Spent the day thinking about changes in the “Social Circle” and reading. Sam White called up and wanted to know with whom he would have to make a deal in “Hey Jose.” So I referred him to Wynkoff and called him to wise him up on it. He seemed pleased, and that might swing us into “Nosotros,” which would be swell. Things are going too swell — I am getting worried! Had the Spanish party at the Spanish Kitchen. It was pleasant and I enjoyed it. Met a screwball at Jimmies, who reads palms and told me I had the most sensuous hand she had ever seen. That was interesting!

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